Traditional business structures often leave marketing and sales departments feeling at odds with each other. When a marketing department sets of the goal of generating as many leads as possible, sales can end up with low-quality leads that waste their time. And when the company doesn’t meet its goals for landing new sales in a quarter, marketing may feel it’s because the sales team hasn’t pulled its weight.
Why Sales and Marketing Should Work Together
Sales and marketing teams may experience their work as something distinct and separate, but your audience doesn’t experience it that way. If a potential customer’s interactions with marketing feel disconnected and unrelated to the interactions they later have with sales, their overall experience will be confusing at best, negative at worst.
“In the digital world, it’s important to provide that seamless customer experience,” says Pam Didner, marketing consultant, author, and speaker.
McKinsey’s research backs that up. Across industries, they’ve found that customer satisfaction can be high at one touchpoint, and still low for the overall journey. Marketing and sales aren’t being judged in a vacuum—a customer’s opinion of your brand depends on how well you’re able to provide a positive experience for the whole journey. That requires working together.
Four Tips to More Collaborative Marketing with Sales
Building a stronger working relationship between marketing and sales takes time, but it’s worth it. Didner shared a few good collaborative marketing tips to help you build a bridge between the two departments.
1. Understand their unique goals and challenges.
A big part of marketing’s job is getting inside the customer’s head—trying to empathize with their distinct feelings and challenges. A good first step to better collaboration is turning that skill toward your sales department.
“Marketing isn’t necessarily seeing things in the same time continuum as sales,” Didner explains. Sales is more rushed. They have “a target, a quota they have to meet every month…it’s very time sensitive.”
Marketing, by contrast, often values playing the long game. “You want to build brand equity, and you also want to nurture, and it takes time to find the prospects,” she says.
Before you can effectively work with the sales team, you have to work on understanding their priorities and figure out how you can help them meet their needs. The collaboration has to be mutually beneficial so they have a reason to participate.
2. Clearly define qualified leads.
Leads are the primary bridge between marketing and sales. But if the marketing department’s goals emphasize quantity of leads over quality, it can cause issues with your sales team, which has to spend time chasing down leads that aren’t worth the effort.
Didner described a client, LeadGenius, that solved this problem by working together to develop a clear definition of a marketing-qualified lead (MQL).
“Their sales team set up the ICP, which stands for ‘ideal customer profile.’ So the sales team actually have a very clear idea of what their customers will look like, and they defined it in a way that everybody can understand.”
Before marketing passes any lead along to sales, they check to make sure two things are true:
- They match the ICP that sales provided
- They’ve already taken a knowledge-specific action, like a request for the demo
Being that specific might bring marketing’s overall numbers down, but if it brings the conversion rate up, then the trade-off is worth it. Being on the same page “creates a very solid working relationship between sales and marketing,” according to Didner.
3. Pick a key initiative to work on together.
To get from good intentions to realizing your collaborative marketing goals, Didner recommends figuring out one or two key initiatives to work on together.
For B2B marketers, “One of the most useful, urgent, or relevant collaborations is account-based marketing.” She suggests that the teams work together to pick several accounts sales wants to go after. Marketing can focus closely on those accounts, complementing the work of the sales team, so that together you can win some important accounts.
Account-based marketing doesn’t make sense for every brand and, in particular, is often unrealistic for B2C marketers. For them, Didner says “it’s important to strengthen the loyalty program.” That’s one of the best ways marketing can work to improve the overall customer experience, and thus directly help with revenue.
Whatever initiative you go with, it can be a good way to open the door to working with sales. You can get to know each other on a project that benefits both of you, which will make future collaborations easier.
4. Actively ask for feedback on content.
Marketing companies produce a lot of content and, in theory, much of that content can be useful for sales enablement. But often in reality, says Didner, “marketing tends to share content with the sales team, and the sales team are not using it and are not necessarily interested or do not have time to provide feedback to the marketing team.”
So what can marketing do? Didner says it’s a matter of persistence. Ask for specific feedback on the content you’ve provided. Are they using it? What about it works or doesn’t? What questions are they getting that would make their lives easier to have content about?
“Maybe [you] need to repurpose the content, rewrite the content, or select different content,” Didner says. Once sales provides feedback, you can apply it to your content strategy and better support their needs.
Collaborative Marketing Gets Better Results for Everyone
Sales and marketing aren’t in competition, they’re two sides of the same process. By building an alliance and working together on specific projects, you can help shape a more consistent customer experience. That’s good for the customer, your metrics, and the company’s bottom line.